Cable Guide: What do composite, component and HDMI cables do?

You know how this story goes – you look into your junk box and find a bunch of cables that connect to DVD players, TVs, VCRs, stereos and computers. Everything is all there but the big question is: what are all of these cables and why are they important? Let’s unwrap the mystery and take a closer look at some of these cables.

Composite Cables (RCA)

You don’t see Composite RCA cables around as much anymore because they have been replaced by HDMI cables (more on that in a moment). The RCA cable contains 3 connections that are yellow, white and red. Each serves a purpose:

  • Yellow: video
  • White: Left speaker audio
  • Red: Right speaker audio

Back in the day, this cable was used to connect VCRs to TVs, as well as some early DVD players.

Component Video Cables

The component cable serves one purpose: video. Don’t be deceived by it’s similar appearance to a composite cable. You’ll often see this hookup on today’s DVD and BluRay players. It creates a higher quality picture similar to what you would see with an HDMI cable (again, more on that cable in a minute). When using this c

HDMI Cables

Finally – the HDMI cable! This “one-in-all” cable allows you to move high quality video & audio with just one connection. It is used in today’s DVD players, BluRay players, computer monitors and more. It provides a crisp, clear picture. Simply hook one end in your source (computer, DVD player, BluRay player) and the other end into the receiving display (TV, computer monitor, etc) and you’re good to go!

1/8″ Cable

The 1/8″ connection is likely recognizable to use as its the same size as a headphone jack. You’ll find a lot of cords that are a variation of this cord. Typically, this cord will have a 1/8″ connection as the source (to get the audio) and the other side of the cord may be another 1/8″ connection, an RCA connection, etc. depending on the device you are going to play the audio into.

Coaxial (Coax) Cable

Finally, let’s take a look at the coaxial (coax) cable. You’re probably somewhat familiar with this cable. It moves cable TV and antenna programming into the back of your TV set. It used to be the connection between VCRs and TVs as well, enabling you to use the VCR’s “tuner” to record programs. Now, this cable often goes directly into the back of the TV or a DVR box. The coax cable also allows you to get an internet connection from your wall to the back of your cable modem.


  1. I love your explanation on u tube about HDMI made me want to ask you for some assistance in setting up my new system.I am getting ready to purchase a 65″ LG O Led tv ,a blue ray player and a sound bar.I would like to use all HDMI cables.I have a comcast cable box. How do I tie in all these components using HDMI from cable box or how do I start? The blue ray player has a lan,HDMI 1 out to tv, HDMI2 audio only and an optical audio out.Thanks for your help.

  2. Help me please to connect. Samsung flat screen tv, older dvd/vcr player, and cable box. Im trying to put it all together so i don’t have to unplug one to watch the other. I have red white yellow cords and or red white blue green red cords. Thank you

  3. Love your helpful technology videos, especially with the various multi-colored connecting tv cords. Thanks much!

  4. my cabkke gas a flat cord with yellow, red green and black.. I have an old Magnavox VCR/DVD box. On the back in one section under VCR/DVD going verdical from top to bottom the first one is white (L) the second is red(R) and the last is yellow ,between the red and yellow it says video out. Then to the left of these is Audi to white IN and under that is yellow VIDEO IN. There are others on the back also under DVD Componet Video Out going down vertically is green, blue, and red. and then next to that row, also under DVD is a vertical row with white (L) red (W). If I want to use both the DVD Player/VCR do I hook up under DVD/VCR vertically white, yellow and red and then with another cord under DVD/VCR aud audio white in and video in yellos? But on my smart tv going horzional the colors are from left to right green, blue red, white, red. I have watched many video’s but can not figure out what to do. Can you help me?

  5. Thank you for your excellent teaching of different connections for hooking up DVD/VCR to a TV. For me, your help was the best and simplest to understand. It worked because after watching on you tube plus reading on your website, I watched my first video. I really appreciate your help! Thanks again!

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